Israel's booming diamond export trade has set a new record in the first quarter of this year, with sales totalling 175 million U.
Israel's booming diamond export trade has set a new record in the first quarter of this year, with sales totalling 175 million U.S. dollars (GBP90 million) - about a third higher than for the same period last year.
On this basis, the trade is expecting to ring up foreign sales totalling more than 700 million U.S. dollars (GBP 350 million), compared with 526 million U.S. dollars (GBP 260 million) last year.
Gem diamonds are Israel's largest export industry and it is also the world's largest diamond finishing industry. Last year, Israel supplied about 85 percent of the stones used in jewellery throughout the world.
Her dominance in this field results from the work of the Jews as many diamond buyers and workers in Europe before the second world war were Jewish. They escaped the holocaust and brought their skills to Israel.
Israel's diamond industry, while controlled by the Ministry of Finance, is a self-governing industry. It has its own "court" to look after fair trading and oversee the quality of work produced.
Its headquarters i a 28-storey building in Ramat Gan, a suburb of the capital, Tel Aviv. This complex has its own bourse and evaluation experts, financial institutions, customs clearance house and Post Office. The latter is necessary because most of the finished diamonds are sent out by registered parcel post.
On the main floor, in scores of offices, rough diamonds are sold daily to Israeli companies to be finished and the finished products are sold to other buyers for the export market. Goods worth hundreds of thousands of dollars change hands hourly.
No contracts are exchanged and no records kept. Deals are finalised when the purchaser ceremonially seals the package containing the diamonds. The two negotiators shake hands and exchange the Hebrew words "Mazal u'Bracha" (good luck and blessing). This phrase is used world-wide.
The Bourse is subject to strict security and photography is not allowed. It is scanned by close-circuit television cameras and there are strongly fortified banks and vaults within the premises.
The exchange, which is the most modern complex in the diamond world, is surrounded by small factories where the finishing work is done. About 12,000 workers are employed in the industry and they include sorters, cleavers, polishers, sawers and cutters, as well as managerial staff, buyers and financiers.
The diamonds for the industry come from The Diamond Trading Company in London (De-Beers), commonly known as "the Syndicate."
Israel's diamond industry, has come a long way since it began in a cow shed in Petach Tikvah in 1937. It received its first real impetus when the traditional diamond centres of Belgium and Holland ground to a halt during World War II.